Each Saturday of the month, this space is given to someone else whose content overlaps mine, be it Borna’s Monthly Book Review, Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review, or a X-Files review courtesy of The M0vie Blog or Apt. 42. But once in awhile a month comes by featuring a fifth Saturday, leaving me wondering what in the world I can do with this extra Saturday of blogging.
The answer this time around was quite easy. It’s winter, also known as reading-by-the-fireplace season. I have received many an email lately asking me for extra recommendations other than the ones I make in my weekly reviews and in my weekly book recommendations. I just can’t leave a reader unsatisfied, and so here is my contribution to easing their pain as well as the pain of anyone else who might find themselves bookless: a six book review round-up.
The Abbot’s Agreement, by Mel Starr
Book description: “My life would have been more tranquil had I not seen the birds. Whatever it was they had found lay in the shadow of the oak, so I was nearly upon the thing before I recognized what they were feasting upon. The corpse wore black.”
Master Hugh is making his way towards Oxford when he discovers the young Benedictine – a fresh body, barefoot. The nearby abbey’s novice master confirms the boy’s identity: John, one of three novices. He had gone missing four days previously, and his corpse is fresh. There has been plague in the area, but this was not the cause of death: the lad has been stabbed. To Hugh’s sinking heart, the abbot commissions him to investigate.
My Review: If you like mysteries but was a simple, straightforward read without fancy modern day hoopla, then this is a book for you. It’s set during a time before forensic science, before cars, cell phones, etc.—i.e. because the time anything went fast. So while the mystery is intriguing and its unraveling will keep you turning pages, it will be an almost comforting read.
If You’re Not the One, by Jemma Forte
Book description: Jennifer Wright is pretty sure her husband doesn’t love her anymore. She and Max used to be the perfect couple, but the pressures of work and kids have pulled them in opposite directions. Now, Jen is full of “what if” questions about whether her bland, suburban existence is all she was ever destined for.
When a terrible accident sends Jen into a coma, she is able to see what her life could have been if she had run off to Australia with the handsome, dangerous man she met on vacation, or if she had stayed with her workaholic college boyfriend. Would she ever have loved another child as much as she loves her daughters? Could she have become rich? More than anything, Jen wants to do the right thing for her family. But what she discovers may leave her with even more questions about the choices she made, and no easy answers about what to do next.
My Review: Although irritating at times, Jennifer came out to be a great fictional friend that helped me sort out some of the long-standing “what ifs” running through my own mind. This is an easy read you won’t lose any sleep over; however, the questions it might generate in your mind might keep you up for quite some time.
Absolutely True Lies, by Rachel Stuhler
Book Description: A fledgling entertainment writer stumbles into the gig of a lifetime writing a teenage pop star’s memoir and soon realizes that the young celebrity’s squeaky-clean image is purely a work of fiction.
Struggling writer Holly Gracin is on the verge of moving back home to upstate New York when she gets hired to write the memoirs of eighteen-year-old Daisy Mae Dixson, a former Nickelodeon child star who has moved seamlessly into both blockbuster movies and pop music. Holly quickly realizes that Daisy’s wholesome public image is purely a work of fiction, as Holly finds herself trailing the star as she travels around the world on yachts, gets stalked by paparazzi, and sneaks out of five-star hotels in the dead of night.
As Holly struggles to write a flattering portrait of a teenage millionaire who only eats “nightshades” and treats her employees like slaves, Daisy has a public meltdown—and suddenly, her book is the cornerstone of resurrecting her image. But working at all hours trailing a pop star has taken its toll, and Holly must decide if becoming the ultimate insider is worth losing a starring role in her own life. Fun, juicy, and inspired by Rachel Stuhler’s own stranger-than-fiction experiences as a celebrity ghost writer, Absolutely True Lies is an entertaining look at how the lifestyles of the rich and famous aren’t always what they seem.
My Review: Definitely my top pick in this list. This book is engaging, easy to read, well-written, hilarious, eye-opening, and will make you think a lot about what we are being told about celebrities and their lives. I really appreciate how Stuhler balances out being open and honest about the lifestyle in question while remaining neutral, thus conveying the story and not an opinion. Funnily enough, it gives space for the reader to see how empty and superficial the life of a celebrity can be.
Rose and the Silver Ghost, by Holly Webb
Book Description: With help from a mysterious ghostly mirror, Rose seeks to discover who her real family is. Time has flown since Rose left the orphanage behind, and she loves her new family at Mr. Fountain’s magical house. But she still can’t help wondering what happened to her real family. Were they full of magic too, like her? As Rose searches for clues to her past, she uncovers a silver mirror which once belonged to her mother. A mirror with a ghost… Will this enchanting mirror help Rose solve the mystery of her past?
My Review: Although this book is part of a series—I think the second one—it still makes for solid reading. Just like with “The Abbot’s Agreement”, the setting is must simpler times. This created the opportunity for the writer to not be distracted by modern gadgets and conveniences and really dig into her writing talents to create a rich tapestry within which this mystery is set. I have to admit that there were things that were a little confusing and a couple of sections that could use some ironing, but this doesn’t deter me from strongly recommending this book.
Another Day, by David Levithan
Book Description: In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green) tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.
Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.
Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all.
My Review: This type of fiction is my favorite: creating an impossible situation within the real world that, if well done, will challenge the way readers think. In this case, this book really makes us think about the real nature of a human being: a soul. The soul, as some like myself believe, is not defined by the body it is contained in, and a real union (i.e. marriage) is between two souls, and not too bodies. Then theoretically, it means that you could date someone who soul skips from one body to another… No?
Crooked Little Lies, by Barbara Taylor Sissel
Book Description: On a cool October morning, Lauren Wilder is shaken when she comes close to striking Bo Laughlin with her car as he’s walking along the road’s edge. A young man well known in their small town of Hardys Walk, Texas, Bo seems fine, even if Lauren’s intuition says otherwise. Since the accident two years ago that left her brain in a fragile state, she can’t trust her own instincts—and neither can her family. Then Bo vanishes, and as the search for him ensues, the police question whether she’s responsible. Lauren is terrified, not of what she remembers but of what she doesn’t.
Unable to trust herself and unwilling to trust anyone else, Lauren begins her own investigation into the mystery of Bo’s disappearance. But the truth can prove to be as shocking as any lie, and as Lauren exposes each one, from her family, from her friends, she isn’t the only one who will face heart-stopping repercussions.
My Review: A heartbreaking story on many levels set within the context of a mystery, this engaging read will make you think long and hard about relationships, be they between husband and wife, between parent and child, between sibling, between neighbours, or between strangers. Lauren’s head trauma has left her in a state of not being able to trust her own memories and mind; in a state of almost constant paranoia, she is challenged well beyond the level most of us will ever be, but will hopefully help us think about the way we go about conducting our personal relationships.